Traveling – On to Sedona

Wind burned, we left the Grand Canyon bound for Sedona, Arizona that is in the Red Rock Canyon or Red Rock Pass depending on who you ask.  We stopped off at a nearby fast food eatery for lunch before moving on.  The women insisted that we take our parking pass, a 1-7 day pass, and give it to someone headed for the park.  They intercepted a lady with a baby in tow.  She was very happy to accept the $35 dollar park pass.  Hope we didn’t get her into trouble.

We had lunch and headed on down to Sedona.  Literally down because it is about a 3000 foot drop in elevation from the South Rim to Sedona.  Our first stop was at an overlook of the canyon.  The winding two lane blacktop was visible a couple thousand feet below.  There was also a Native American crafts market there, but they were packing up the drizzling rain having spoiled the day’s business.

This area is well known for the red rock formations and canyon walls.  Heading down toward town, we made several stops to view and photograph them.  The pine forested landscape is much the same as Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon areas. Our friends tell us Sedona is an escape from the Phoenix area to some greenery and moderate temperatures.  The crowds inside town verified its popularity.

What you most hear about for Sedona is the sunsets.  In a clear sky, the sunset reflecting off the red rock formations can be spectacular.  With great seating for dinner on the open deck of a restaurant, we were ready for it.  Unfortunately, nature did not cooperate and a cloud formation spoiled our waited for sunset.  We enjoyed our Mexican food and a restful dinner at the end of our whirlwind trip.  There remained one more place to see before we left Sedona and headed back toward Phoenix.

The Chapel of the Holy Cross is a Church built into the rocks.  It is a spectacular site, unfortunately closed for visits by the time we made it there.  We did get some pictures of one side with the sun setting.  A Church built on a rock is a fitting symbol of Christianity.  We managed to capture the setting sun on a couple more formations before heading toward Phoenix.

After a day of hanging out, attending Church services with our friends, and gorging ourselves (at least I did) at a seafood buffet we were back at the airport at 5AM Monday morning for the return home through Atlanta.  Altogether an excellent little vacation made better by the company of good friends.  And we got in and out of Atlanta on time.

© 2017 J. D. Pendry

Traveling – The Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon has always been on my list of must see places.  It was a short drive from Flagstaff.  We were fortunate to arrive there while parking near the South Rim was still available.  We had thought about visiting the Skywalk, but canyon geography and time caused us to forego that this trip.  Truthfully, you could spend several days exploring the canyon.  Some wayward hikers have unintentionally spent longer.  The Grand Canyon averages 10 miles across and is 277 miles long.  We were near the South Rim and the Skywalk was Grand Canyon West.  To visit the Skywalk would add another four hours driving time to cover the additional 243 miles.  So we decided to walk some of the South Rim instead, which we did for about four, my dogs were barking at the end, hours.

After the obligatory stop at the visitor center and the bathroom, we followed the signs and our map to the South Rim trail.  You cannot see the canyon from the parking area or the visitor center and the anxiety builds until you reach the edge for the first time and the first thing you see takes your breath away.

Suzie-Q and I have been blessed to see some spectacular sites from Niagara Falls to the majesty of the Swiss Alps, but we’ve never experienced a natural sight such as this.  We also had manmade comparisons of world sites including our most recent of Las Vegas and the Hoover Dam.  Taking my first look out over the canyon, the first thought that came to my mind was God made this and every manmade thing I’ve seen pales in comparison.

There was a high wind warning for our time there and it caused me to wonder how many ball caps are lying somewhere in the bottom of the canyon.  The wind was not fooling around and some gusts were quite strong.  I actually had some concern for people who were letting relatively small children walk along and near the edge out of someone’s grip.  Even without the high wind, Suzie-Q was a little skittish but I was able to coax here near enough to the edge to get some pictures.  But she would not climb a tree.

You do know that she was not pleased when I posed for this one, especially with the wind gusting.

There simply are not enough photographs that can really capture the Grand Canyon.  You have to see it and consider the enormity of it to truly appreciate God’s creation.

We have scratched the visit from our list, but I think we’ll come back here again.  I would like to take the mule ride down into the canyon.  It may be as the Lone Ranger because Suzie-Q shared a few choice Korean expressions when I suggested it.  Nearest English translation: “You cragee?”

Last stop was a bonus added by George and Chong Mi.

© 2107 J. D. Pendry

Traveling – Road to Flagstaff

In Flagstaff, there was no particular thing we wanted to visit except for a decent restaurant and our hotel.  It was just our lay over spot for the next day’s adventure to the Grand Canyon.  Our friends, George and Chong Mi, laid out the trip for us and an overnight stay in Flagstaff was much less expensive than lodging at the Grand Canyon.  For George and me, we are accustomed to the thinking of Army wives and even now in retirement common sense and frugality typically apply.

If you’ve never tried it, snapping pictures from a speeding automobile can be a challenge, but we managed a couple of decent ones.  If you have driven in the American Southwest, you will find the scenery between Hoover Dam and Flagstaff, Arizona familiar.  Suzie-Q and I have turned right at Dallas and driven 700 miles to El Paso.  While there, we also drove around some and into New Mexico and to Carlsbad Caverns which is also a place worth seeing again.  If you are from the east, especially the rolling green hills of Wild and Wonderful the desert landscape can be captivating even when it appears inhospitable.   It has its own personality and beauty, but I do long for the green of Almost Heaven when I am in the area.

I heard a story once about a gentleman who arrived in Heaven on a Friday night.  As Saint Peter greeted him at the Pearly Gate, he noticed a group of people secured in a cage.  Astounded that he might encounter such a thing in Heaven, he asked Saint Peter what it was all about.  Saint Peter gave him a quizzical look as if he should know the answer and after a moment said, “Well brother, they’re West Virginians.  If we don’t lock them up on Friday night, they try to go home for the weekend.”

It was quite warm when we left Las Vegas and was still quite warm at Hoover Dam.  We were forewarned to expect cooler temperatures at Flagstaff and at the Grand Canyon.  We had our sweatshirts and jackets in the backpacks.  The elevation of Las Vegas is around 2000 feet.  In the Hoover Dam area elevation is around 1300 feet.  In Flagstaff, we topped out at around 7000 feet, and at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon were we spent most of the next day it ranged around 7000 with the highest point around 7400 feet.

If you are not accustomed to elevation, strenuous activity could cause you some problems and especially if you have any respiratory issues.  So rock steady on the canyon rim.  It was certainly cooler in Flagstaff than it was down in the desert lowlands and the visible snow capped mountains reinforced that.

It was a nice little road trip from the Dam to Flagstaff.  It led to a good dinner with good friends and a restful night.  For tomorrow, we are going to the Grand Canyon.  That’s worth a hooah!

© 2017 J. D. Pendry

Traveling – Hoover Dam

In less than two hours, we made it out to Hoover Dam.  Our friends tell us the way into the dam area if approaching from Las Vegas changed since their last visit.  Before, you had to leave the road for parking on the opposite side of the dam from where we arrived.
With new road construction, we had to drive beyond the dam, exit the highway, and drive back up the other side crossing the same bridge twice and then down the winding road to the dam.  This road funnels you into a pay parking garage and all the signage points you toward the paid tours, but there is always the option of sightseeing from top of the dam without a tour guide.

Comparing manmade structures Hoover Dam, in my view, is much more spectacular than Las Vegas.  It took three years of 24/7 work to complete.  I forgot how many tons of concrete was poured, but do remember the need for a cooling system otherwise the concrete would have taken a hundred years or so to cure.  Men traveled from all over the country to work on the dam and numbers of them died for the good depression era wage of four to six dollars a day.  A tour guide told us the operation ran 24/7 and the workers were allowed 2 days off during the year.  The five-year project was finished in three.

I gauge that the Dam certainly made a greater contribution to the region than did Las Vegas.  The water from the reservoir for consumption and irrigation and the electric power generated made farming and glittering Las Vegas lights possible.   We did take note that the water level was down considerably from normal.

If you visit Las Vegas, make sure to take a break from glitz, glamour and gambling to make the short trip out to Hoover Dam.  It is worth the time, although I feel the tours of the Dam are overpriced and the tour guides are little more than cattle herders.  And, trust me when I tell you that they do try to humor you with too many Dam(n) jokes.  “Now I will take your Dam questions.”

I have been places that have caused me to pause and consider the human side.  Places like the Civil War battle fields of Gettysburg and Antietam.  I am always left with the internal question, could I endure? Could I have done what these men did?  Always deeper questions to ponder are there not?

Hoover Dam.  Great visit now scratched from the list.  But this is worth seeing again.

OK, on the road to Flagstaff.

© 2017 J. D. Pendry

Traveling – Las Vegas

Due to the weather, we were four hours late getting out of Atlanta.  Severe thunderstorm cells lined up like Napoleon’s Army and uniformly marched through one file at a time.  Everything passes through Atlanta we hear or Chicago.

First it was only the weather.  Then it was a weather caused pilot delay. Then it was a slow computer system also blamed on the weather and there was the gate agent malfunction.  The inbound pilots scheduled to fly us to Phoenix were diverted to Tallahassee.  Then they were delayed out of Tallahassee because the Napoleon blockade would not allow them back into Atlanta.  At least that was their story.  We are unable to verify other flight delay stories involving paying customers being dragged from their seats.

Once our pilots arrived, we started boarding.  That was stopped mid-stream because of lightening.  When boarding resumed, it was again delayed because of reportedly slow computers and the questionable competence of a gate agent.  Finally an apologetic pilot announced in a frustrated voice that we were pushing back from the gate and were finally on our way.  I prefer cheerful pilots.  We arrived in Phoenix a little more than 4 hours behind our schedule.  Thanks to modern communications, our friends knew when to expect us although they told us our flight never appeared on the arrivals board.  Shortly, we were on the road to Las Vegas.

Over time, Suzie-Q and I have traveled a bit in Asia and Europe and in the good old U.S. of A. including the family Red Rocket Road Trip.  For all the places we have been blessed to visit, there remains a growing bucket list.  Thanks to good friends of more than 30 years, this trip would scratch three from the list and toss in an unscheduled fourth as a bonus.

A dearly departed friend of ours, twenty years our senior, told us that when you reach fifty years old life begins passing by at fifty miles per hour and continues to speed up with every passing year.  Since at fifty all traveling is down hill, it made sense.  And so it goes with bucket list chances.

We did want to see the Las Vegas glitter.  Whether they will admit it or not, most everyone is curious about “Sin City.”  It was quite a sight arriving there at night and seeing bright lights rising up out of the desert.  Quite an oasis I guess.

Neither of us are gamblers, but every place is arranged so that you have to walk through the casino to get anywhere else.  We did ah heck insert a couple of twenty dollar bills into some very sterile one armed bandits.  There are no more coins we were told.  Guess they took us for hicks for asking.  No ding, ding, ding.  No flashing lights.  Nothing.  It was just a cold efficient way of taking money from the gullible and mathematically challenged and those would be high rollers inebriated from free drinks.  It took us about 10 minutes time with reward of much second hand cigarette smoke to determine that was the low light of the trip.  We walked around much of the day, had lunch at an out of the way Korean restaurant, watched people, wandered through different hotel lobbies and casino areas, fended off street hawkers and snapped pictures like good tourists should.  By evening, we made our way to the Mirage Hotel to see Cirque Du Soliel, Beatles Love.   Yes, to get to the box office and theater, we had to traverse the casino also known as the smoking section.

It was an entertaining show.  Not quite sure how to explain it except to say there were dancers, acrobats and trapeze artists flying around the stage performing to Beatles tunes.  Did not waste brain energy trying to pick out all the different social themes of which there were some.  I recall the silver haired former hippies sitting in front of us standing, clapping and swaying to All You Need Is Love.  Wonder what was going through their minds?  We intended to see more of the town following the show, but traffic around the Mirage and back down the strip toward our hotel, which sat behind and in the shadows of the Hooters Hotel and Casino, was a nightmare.  By the time we got back there, Las Vegas was scratched from the bucket list.  If I could compare anything in life to our trip to Las Vegas it would fall in the same barrel as our trip to Oktober Fest in Munich although with fewer visible drunks and vomit and no half chickens or ham hocks.  It was interesting and generally entertaining but like Oktober Fest once was enough.

Following breakfast, we put Las Vegas in the rear view mirror and headed for other places.


© 2017 J. D. Pendry